Restoring Damaged Soil
Sometimes soil is so damaged that it seems impossible to restore it to a healthy state. In places where healthy soil turned into a desert or where toxic chemicals in the soil made it impossible to plant growth, soil can take hundreds of years to recover. But in many places with a thorough work, we can help the soil recover.
How to Restore Damaged Soil
No one can make the land to be productive. Even chemical fertilizers work only for a brief time before the land is no longer fertile. But if we pay attention to the cycles of nature, we can help create the conditions needed for soil recovering to healthy fertile state.
Sometimes the best way to restore the soil is to leave it alone, and to help it recover. Erection of fences or tablets asking people to stay away, or reducing the number of cattle grazing on the ground, can significantly help the soil recover. When the land is protected from the use, and the conditions are suitable for the rebirth of life, plants are returned to their natural order. This process is called the natural succession. It can take many years, even generations.
Natural succession will not recover the soil if:
• There are no sources of seed or indigenous plants.
• Fast-breeding plants occupied the land and displace desirable plants.
• The land is so degraded or contaminated, that nothing will grow on it.
Indigenous and nonindigenous plants and trees
Indigenous plants (wild plants of the area) are easy to grow in local conditions. They also maintain biodiversity, attracting and providing shelter for native insects, birds and animals.
Sometimes plants and trees that are not native to the area are becoming popular because they grow quickly, give a good timber or help improve the soil. Some trees, such as eucalyptus, pine, teak, neem and Leutsena are planted worldwide.
However, planting of trees and plants that are not native to your area may cause problems. They may use too much groundwater, compete with crops and indigenous trees for water and soil nutrients, multiply far beyond the point where you want them to grow, or make indigenous animals and insects to look for another place to live. When nonindigenous plants predominate, restoring the soil by natural succession is very difficult.
In suitable conditions, planting trees helps to restore damaged soil and provides firewood, timber, food for human and animal, medicine. Planting trees can turn poor and infertile soil into the rich and fertile one. But trees planted in harsh environments need care. Planting trees has many advantages, but it is not suitable for all areas.